Category Archives: Wildlife Protection

Fight Destructive Offshore Drilling

Update 9/16/19: Great news – all three bills passed in the House last week! Next, the Senate needs to take action. Thanks to everyone who contacted your members of congress!

Mass Audubon has been working to oppose a damaging expansion in offshore oil and gas drilling proposed by the Trump Administration, since the extraction of oil and gas through our oceans would have severe impacts on fisheries, wildlife habitat, and geological resources.

We had some good news earlier this year when components of the plan involving the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic were blocked in federal court. However, much of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are still at risk from expanded drilling, and the federal government will likely appeal the ruling, so it’s important that we keep fighting for protection of our coastlines.

Humpback whale. Photo credit: NOAA

Now we have a chance to do just that. A major vote in the US House of Representatives is expected this week on federal legislation that could make a big impact. The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act (H.R. 1941) would ban offshore drilling & seismic testing on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Please take a minute to contact your congressperson and ask them to support H.R.1941 when it comes up for their vote. Let them know that this protection is crucial for our vulnerable marine ecosystems and wildlife, like the endangered North Atlantic right whale. You can also remind them that Massachusetts and all of New England depend on a thriving coastal and ocean economy, and that success in turn depends on healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems.

While you’re at it, ask them to support these additional drilling prevention bills, which are also set for votes this week:

The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act (H.R. 1146) would restore protections against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Although the federal court has upheld protection for the Arctic Ocean against drilling, the Refuge could become open for drilling leases as soon as this fall.

The Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act (H.R. 205) would extend protections into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – August 19, 2019

Save the Endangered Species Act

The federal Endangered Species Act is one of America’s most successful conservation laws, and it’s under threat. The Trump Administration has finalized changes that will significantly weaken protection for vulnerable species, but you can help fight them.

Rallying Support for Vineyard Wind

Vineyard Wind would be the first US industrial offshore wind project and has the potential to power more than 400,000 homes. Earlier this month, the project was delayed by the Interior Department. At a press event with our colleagues on Cape Cod, we spoke out about this unnecessary delay.

Climate Central

→ Greta Thunberg sets sail for U.N. climate talks
→ Rhode Island is the first of the lower 48 states whose average temperature has risen by more than 2ºC, and the rest of the Northeast isn’t far behind
→ It’s official: this July was the planet’s hottest month on record

Pesticides and Endangered Species

In addition to her pledge to take action on Endangered Species Act rollbacks, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy and ten other state attorneys general have opposed an EPA proposal that risks exposing endangered species to harmful pesticides.

Protecting the Endangered Species Act

by Christina Wiseman and Jenna Clemenzi

The federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) is under threat. A bipartisan conservation law passed in 1973, the ESA defines species as “endangered” or “threatened” and requires federal agencies to protect them and their habitat. The ESA has a 99% success rate, and has helped bring species like the bald eagle and humpback whale back from the brink of extinction.

The ESA is especially important today, as we face the threat of a mass extinction of up to 1 million species. This drastic decline in species would be detrimental to our health, food security, and economies. The ESA is also strongly supported by the American public, with 90% expressing support in a recent poll.

Bald eagle chicks. Photo credit: USFWS

An Uncertain Future

Despite the ESA’s popularity and bipartisan passage, some members of Congress have made 150 efforts to weaken the act in the last two years, largely due to pressure from extractive industries that believe the law restricts business.

Last week, the Trump Administration announced their final changes to ESA regulations, which significantly threaten the law’s effectiveness.

These changes include:

  • Allowing economic impacts, rather than solely the best available scientific data, to be considered when determining the protection status of a species
  • Weakening of protections  for species deemed “threatened”
  • More flexibility in determining how species will be impacted in the “foreseeable future,” effectively allowing the effects of climate change to be disregarded

The changes allow the coal, oil, gas, and timber industries to have a greater say in the management of threatened and endangered species and their habitats. In order to ensure the continued survival of these species in the United States, the ESA needs to be restored to its full capacity.

Humpback whale. Photo credit: NOAA

Fighting Back

You can help stop the dismantling of the Endangered Species Act!

  • Call or email your Congressperson and ask them to hold hearings on saving the ESA
  • Ask Senators Warren and Markey to stop the rollback using the Congressional Review Act
  • Thank Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey for her defense of the Act – she plans to sue the Trump Administration over these changes

Mass Audubon has spoken out about this issue before, and we’ll continue to do so. We’ve reached out to Attorney General Healey in support of her legal appeal, and have offered to work with her office in defending the ESA in federal court. As founding members of the US Endangered Species Coalition, we condemned the decision to weaken the ESA, and weighed in about impacts these changes could have locally here in Massachusetts.

Harnessing the Wind: A New Resource for Offshore Planning

The heatwaves we’ve been experiencing this summer are a good excuse to get to the beach, but they’re also a reminder that we’re already starting to experience the impacts of climate change. One of Mass Audubon’s top climate change mitigation priorities is the responsible development and use of offshore wind, which could bring more than 4 gigawatts of clean, renewable energy to Massachusetts.

Offshore wind is a critical component to US emissions reduction and has the potential to create thousands of jobs. But we need to make sure the industry grows responsibly, and set clear guidelines for minimizing environmental impacts.

A North Atlantic right whale and calf

Harnessing the Wind: How to Advance Wind Power Offshore, is a new resource produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council in collaboration with Mass Audubon and other partner groups. This guide outlines how we can tap into US offshore wind potential in a way that’s also protective of ocean life, and identifies the top challenges, along with proposed actions, toward accomplishing that goal.

Whether it’s placing projects outside of sensitive habitat areas or reducing underwater noise, taking these measures up-front will ensure the offshore wind industry continues to grow in a way that works for wildlife, people, and the planet.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – July 15, 2019

Join Firefly Watch!

It’s summertime, and that means fireflies are out and about. Firefly Watch is a citizen science project that gathers data on local firefly populations, and you can help right from your backyard!

Weigh in on Green Transportation

State agencies and transportation groups are holding public workshops on the future of green transportation. Massachusetts is part of the multi-state Transportation and Climate Initiative working to adopt a regional, low-carbon transportation policy. We’ve provided past input with our partners.

Climate Central

→ Worcester and Boston will participate in a new urban heat island mapping project.

→ Discussing climate change leads to more acceptance of its science.

→ EEA Secretary Katie Theoharides on state climate initiatives.

→ Intelligence aide blocked from submitting climate change testimony resigns.

Celebrate National Pollinator Week

Today kicks off National Pollinator Week! Massachusetts is home to hundreds of pollinator species like bees, butterflies, beetles, and hummingbirds that are vital to fruit and vegetable crops and ecosystem health. Pollinators are threatened by pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss, and many species are in serious decline.

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

The good news is, there are lots of ways you can help: 

  • Contact your state legislators in support of our priority pollinator bill, which would help protect more of their habitat here in Massachusetts.
  • Attend a pollinator program at Mass Audubon, or visit one of our wildlife sanctuaries with a pollinator garden to see their benefits firsthand.
  • Learn how to plant your own pollinator garden.
  • Donate to Mass Audubon to fund pollinator-friendly management practices on our lands, create more gardens with native plants, and teach others how to make their land more welcoming to pollinator species. 

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – June 17, 2019

Left image: USFWS

Celebrate Pollinator Week

Today kicks off National Pollinator Week! Massachusetts is home to hundreds of pollinator species vital to fruit and vegetable crops and ecosystem health. Many pollinator species are in serious decline, but there are lots of ways you can help.

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

  • Mass Audubon will be speaking at this event next week on transforming climate awareness into action
  • Two and a half years into the Trump Administration, no climate change regulatory rollback has yet survived legal challenge in court

Climate Funding Bills in the Spotlight

Bills filed by Governor Baker and Speaker DeLeo to fund climate change preparedness will have hearings at the State House this week. We’ll be providing testimony with partners, including our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition, in support of both bills. Look for our comments in next week’s Roundup.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – June 10, 2019

Popsicle photo credit: Lorie Shaull (CC BY SA 2.0); Solar photo credit: Kylee Wilson

Action You Can Take This Week: Help Protect Our Coasts

Legislation protecting Massachusetts waters from offshore oil and gas drilling had its State House hearing last week. The bill, S.448, would make it more difficult for federal drilling projects to move forward off our coasts. We support S.448, and you can support it too.

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Communities Making the Right Choice

Across Massachusetts, communities are taking their energy decisions into their own hands. Many have started incorporating renewable energy components into their Community Choice Aggregation programs as a way to step up on local climate action.

Funding Farming Programs for Schools

We’ve submitted testimony in support of state legislation to fund schools’ collaboration with local farms – a win/win, since assisting schools to serve local food in school meals, provide nutrition education, and increase garden-based learning would benefit students, teachers, and farmers.

Help Protect Our Coasts from Drilling

State legislation protecting Massachusetts waters from offshore oil and gas drilling had its State House hearing last week. The bill, S.448, An Act protecting our coasts from offshore drilling, would limit or prohibit state-level approvals and activities related to offshore drilling, making it more difficult for federal drilling projects to move forward off our coasts.

The US Department of the Interior plans to expand offshore oil and gas leasing off US coastlines. This expansion – not to mention the potential for catastrophic oil spills – off the Massachusetts Outer Continental Shelf could have severe impacts on fisheries, wildlife habitat, and geological resources.

Massachusetts and all of New England depend on a thriving coastal and ocean economy, and that success in turn depends on healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems. This expansion would place at risk natural resources like Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which provides feeding and nursery grounds for species like the endangered humpback and North Atlantic right whale, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, biodiversity hotspots that are home to deep sea corals found nowhere else on Earth. It would also be a big step backwards in our fight against climate change.  

We submitted testimony in support of S.448, and you can help too.  

If your state representative or senator is a member of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, contact them and urge them to report the bill favorably out of committee, so it can continue its path toward being signed into law. Even if your legislator isn’t on the Committee, you can ask them to contact Committee members in favor of the bill.

The mytilus seamount, part of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, is home to a diverse array or corals. Photo credit: NOAA

A federal judge recently upheld permanent protection for certain areas of the Atlantic Ocean, along with nearly all of the Arctic Ocean, against the drilling expansion, but the federal government is appealing that decision. Even in the case of another court victory, much of the Atlantic Ocean is still at risk from expanded drilling. S.448 would provide an added layer of protection to lessen that risk.  

Most of our neighboring New England states are considering similar legislation, and if enacted, these bills collectively could help protect the entire region from offshore drilling-related activity in state waters. 

Contact your legislator today to help pass this bill! 

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – June 3, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Support Youth Climate Activists

Save the date! On September 20, youth activists will be holding a global climate strike. Learn how you can support them and how you, too, can participate in a week of action.

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Photo credit: National Park Service

A Green New Deal of Action

Mass Audubon supports the Green New Deal, but the US Senate has been unwilling to seriously discuss the climate’s breakdown. In the meantime, Massachusetts should step up at the state level. The latest Op Ed from our advocacy director dives into this idea.

Photo credit: NOAA

Support for Darker Night Skies

We submitted testimony in favor of legislation aimed at darker night skies. Brightly lit buildings can disorient migratory birds, and reducing unnecessary outdoor lighting would not only help protect wildlife, it would reduce emissions and save money.

A Battered Buffer

Mass Audubon weighed in for this Boston Globe article on the plight of the North Shore’s Great Marsh. The area is one of New England’s most vital coastal ecosystems, but climate change poses a threat to its survival.

Photo credit: Meagan Gonneea, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Offshore Wind and Whales

With partners, we commented on the Vineyard Wind project’s latest phase of permitting, which deals with marine mammal impacts. Our letter focused on ensuring species like the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale remain protected as the project moves forward.

A North Atlantic right whale and calf